Mino Raiola has revealed Manchester United had been in discussions for two years over the potential signing of Paul Pogba before they secured a deal in the summer.
Speaking to the Mail in an extended interview, Pogba’s agent Raiola confirmed that another team in the Premier League plus two European heavyweights also wanted to sign the French midfielder – who joined United in an £89m world record deal – but Pogba himself wanted the return to Manchester.
Raiola mentioned that Real Madrid’s interest was firm, but Pogba was looking for a “bigger challenge” with the club he left on a free transfer in 2012. Raiola said: “I always say to my players we go where we are needed. United will always be one of the biggest clubs in the world whether by reputation or balance sheet.
“Yes, Manchester United had no Champions League and weren’t champions but they needed us the most. United had been talking to us for two years about Pogba.
“They had taken my player Sergio Romero and we had kept the lines of communication open. We knew we had interest, we spoke to Juventus, they really wanted to try for the Champions League, they gave him the No 10 shirt and we said we would give it one more year.
“Then I worked on an exit plan. We had two offers from the Premier League and two outside. Paul said United was in his heart, Woodward wanted him at United a year ago and Mourinho had wanted him at Chelsea too, so when the two combined we knew it was right.
For the player, Real Madrid would have been easier, La Liga, Champions League, but he wanted the greater challenge.”
Former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is known not to be a fan of Raiola – to put it lightly – but the representative insisted that he had huge respect for the Scot and that it was not his fault that Pogba did decide to leave United for nothing four years ago. He does, however, believe it was still the right move on Pogba’s part.
He said: “It [Ferguson] was never an issue. Moving in 2012 was a necessary step because Paul wouldn’t have progressed the way he did otherwise.
“I had two meetings with Mr Ferguson. The first was nasty on his part but the second, I’d never had so much fun in my life! Mr Ferguson is entitled to his opinion and, though I don’t have to agree with it, I have a great deal of respect for him.
“He is an iconic manager but I still believe the value of Paul today confirms I was right to do what I did. We had different ideas of where Paul was. Maybe it’s just as well he didn’t like me because then he would have slapped me. What people don’t realise is that I did everything to try and persuade Paul not to go to Juventus.
“Serie A clubs were not known for developing young players at the time. The last had been Paolo Maldini at AC Milan in 1985. I didn’t think it was right.
“So three months down the line, he is at Juventus and I said we started a bad relationship here, everything I say you don’t listen to me and Paul just said, ‘It’s not that I don’t listen, it is just everything I have done in life, I have done the hard way. I want to do it the hard way’.
“Similarly, this time when it was about returning to United, he knew there was no Champions League and it was the greater challenge. Paul Pogba doesn’t give up. One thing I see though is that Mr Ferguson was made a Sir — maybe I too should be a “Sir’’ for bringing Paul back!”
Raiola – who also represents new United stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – also spoke on their transfers to Old Trafford, saying: “Mkhitaryan was more complicated (than Pogba). We had almost agreed with another Premier League club but Dortmund wouldn’t let him go, then United pushed it over the line.
“With Zlatan, he fits the Manchester United brand perfectly. He is the personification of fearless and has that winning mentality combined with class.
“He is 34 but he is the most talked about player in the Premier League. His reunion with Mourinho gives that feeling of ‘we are Manchester United, now come try to f*** us!'”